21st April (82 days to trip): 1st meeting with Peng Kee
I met with Peng Kee (NUS Enterprise Senior Manager in charge of the trip) to have our first meeting discussing the trip. I was looking forward to understanding the goals of the trip, and how we would fulfill them, while he was keen to make sure I understood the effort and commitment needed to see the project to completion and was willing to give what was necessary.
Our conversation taught me that the OSM trip objective is mainly an exposure trip for students, that they will benefit from speaking to founders and early employees at startups large and small about anything that they can think of. Nobody is expecting in-depth discussions about Google Analytics attribution models or holacracy, but I personally hope that we can move beyond mythologizing startup founders and painting a realistic, gritty picture of startup life.
One thing that we both felt strongly about was the need to prioritize companies that are ahead of the technology curve. It is all too easy to pick startups that are already household names, but those are in truth the least startup-like, because they have probably achieved product-market fit. We agreed that companies involved in wearables, the internet-of-things, and other sort of hardware are of particular interest to us.
Even though the trip is planned around startups and technology, the city is steeped in culture and history. There is the Museuminsel (Museum Island), a complex of 5 museums listed as a UN World Heritage Site; There is the Berlin Wall Memorial, an ironically small structure dedicated to the most visible and most famous post Cold-War monument; all told there are 60 museums in Berlin according to the official portal of Berlin. Add to that a living, breathing community of artists and musicians from all over Germany, and you start to see how special the city is. I decided to pencil in a visit to the Berlin Wall memorial, as that for me represents the single most impactful event for Germany for the past half-century. It also affords an opportunity for the group to enjoy a walking tour of the city even as they reflect upon the living history around them.
Speaking of icons and history, there is one icon that holds great promise to be a part of history. Google’s The Factory is eponymous with Andy Warhol’s iconic work studio and party venue, a landmark of time and place. Peng Kee and I are both keen to visit the Google-backed startup space, and see how Google’s pledge of €1 million has brought in startup luminaries such as 6wunderkinder, Soundcloud, Vamos and more.
22nd April (81 days to trip)
I created a project board on Trello (free and amazing project management)and seeded it with some companies, media, incubators, and VCs. We’d be collecting a lot of names and following up on a lot of leads and I needed it to be organised.
I followed up with many of my friends in Berlin from my time at 9flats. I was glad to note that many of them were still active in startups. 9flats, like Airbnb, was badly hit by the Berlin government’s ban on short-term rentals. I compiled a shortlist of startups where my former colleagues were working and this is what I have.
- Houzz - They aren’t a startup in their home market of the US anymore. They are in Europe though.
- Makerist - They sell courses for knitting, crochet, cake art and more.
- WunderAgent - Online real estate agent for homeowners.
- CleanAgents - Home cleaning service. Now acquired by Rocket Internet’s Helpling.
29th April (74 days to trip)
I started talking to friends with strong overseas ties for intros to interesting companies in Berlin. I spoke to Sriram, Spotify and NOC alumnus. I had barely given him the trip outline when a torrent of short introductory emails started streaming in. His gift for the concise sentence is a blessing. Sriram introduces people at:
I dropped a line to my former boss, friend and mentor Stephan. He’s busy changing the way people experience airports with his latest project - FLIO, but I hope to steal some of his time for a few intros.
I also stumble upon a tech conference taking place in Berlin while searching for events that may be interesting for us to attend. The Tech Open Air conference has a very attractive lineup and its timing is perfect. I plan to reach out to the organizers to see if we can purchase discounted tickets.
I ping my old friend Zaki in Toronto to bounce the idea of organising a satellite event at TOA Berlin off of him. He’s holding the Moonshots portfolio at B2B advocate marketing pioneer Influitive. I figure that if I’m going to think about organising an event, I might as well bring guests from out of town to make it more interesting for attendees.
I received a reply from Roman Rochel, who was my first contact at 9flats. I’ve never seen a single person give more at his job. He is now Head of the Houzzhold in Germany. He’s agreed to let me bring my entourage. First win!Tweet
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